An Overview of the Rep Industry

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PlanetZoom

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Most rep watches are sold in Guangzhou, China. Guangzhou is a large port city northwest of Hong Kong. It is the capital and most populated city of the Guangdong province in Southern China.

There is a huge watch market near Gangzhou Railway Station filled with stands and stores that sell an immense number of rep watches and clocks.

Here are a few pics:



Guangzhou-watch-market-2.jpg


Inside-Guangzhou-watch-market-in-China-1.jpg

Factories

There are a number of different factories that sell reps. Not all factories make all the reps that are available. Some factories make some reps, while other factories make other reps. Some factories tend to focus on certain brands, while other factories focus on different brands. There is overlap, though, so certain watches are available from more than one factory. There are normally differences between the same type of watch that is offered from different factories. That is because each factory normally designs its version of the particular rep.

How a Rep Watch is Made

Here is an example of how the process works:

First, a factory decides to make a new replica of a particular watch. This is the factory that has the idea to replicate the gen, and it is the factor that designs the rep.

Second, to design the rep, the factory buys a gen version of the watch and dissects it.

Third, the factory approaches multiple other factories and commissions them to produce each of the component parts that will be needed for the rep. Each of these suppliers are the vendors that provide the main factory with the component parts. Different suppliers specialize in manufacturing different types of parts, like crystals, bezels, movements, etc.

Fourth, if a commissioned part is new (has not been made before), the factory will obtain a prototype from its supplier. The factory will QC the prototype and approve it when it meets their specs.

Fifth, the factory obtains the various component parts from its multiple suppliers.

Sixth, the factory assembles the final watch.

Even though the factory is called a “factory” or “manufacturer,” most likely most or all of they are doing is the initial design and final assembly of the watch. All of the component parts come from suppliers that have the expertise and machinery to make a particular type of part. The factory that sells the watch might not even own any manufacturing equipment.

This structure is not unusual in the manufacturing world. Even a large manufacturer like Ford or GM does not make all of its own parts, though they likely make more parts than a rep factory.

Rep "factories" are far different than what you will see in a factory like GM or Ford, or even a gen watch manufacturer. Rep factories do not follow ISO or Six Sigma standards. They do not have "clean rooms." Your watch probably gets assembled in a much dirtier environment that you might imaging.

Rep factories do not want to get raided and lose their inventory. They set up operations in a way to avoid attracting undue attention.

Relationship between factories and TDs

TDs obtain watches from factories and/or wholesalers.

TDs normally do not hold stock, unless the watch is current and selling in high volume. Not holding much inventory their inventory costs are lower, and it also lowers the risk of losing a lot of inventory if there is a raid. This also means that TDs can generally only supply what is currently available from factories and wholesalers.

Most TDs are relatively small operations. Some are bigger, some are smaller. It is unlikely that any of them are big because, like the factories, they are trying to not attract undue attention to their business.

In other words, TDs usually have a small staff that has to address dozens or hundreds of emails and PM every day. Since they sell watches across the world, they get emails and PMs 24 hours a day.

Once a TD buys a watch for you, they typically cannot get a refund on it. If there is a defect, they can usually get an exchange but not a refund.


The next post will describe how these things affect the rep market and rep buyers.

 
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PlanetZoom

PlanetZoom

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This post is a follow up from the first post. I had to split this into two posts based on post size limits.

What this means for the rep community

Understanding how factories and TDs function helps explain many things about this hobby, including some of the things that can be frustrating.

Limited quantities of batches. There are typically minimum production quantities for each part. The suppliers will have minimum order quantities. The minimum quantities will likely vary from supplier to supplier.

For example, the factory might obtain first batches for a new watch from its supplies that include 700 cases, 1000 straps, 400 dials/hands, and 500 movements. In that scenario, the factory will only be able to produce 400 of the first batch of the new watch.

Lack of uniformity. There is less uniformity in reps than gens. Different batches of parts might of parts may have different quality. If the spec parts are not available, substitute parts may be used.

Cleanliness. Rep watches are typically assembled in environments that are not as clear as you might expect. Component parts may not be cleaned. The watch might not be oiled or be over-oiled.

New batches might include improvements. Let’s say there is an issue with the dial in the first batch of a new watch (for example, the spacing of the letters or the font has flaws compared to gen). That issue may or may not get addressed in the next batch. Either way, the factory will want to sell all 400 dials from its first batch.

Assembly takes time. When a TD asks a factory if they have a watch in stock, the answer may be “yes” because the factory has all the component parts in stock. But the watch might not be assembled. If that is the case, it will take more time to get your watch.

People make mistakes. A factory may confirm to the TD they have the watch in stock. The TD tells you the watch is available, and you pay for the watch. When the factory goes to assemble the watch, they may discover that they are missing one part. The factory then tells the TD the watch is “out of stock.” The TD then tells you the “watch is out of stock.” This is frustrating, but it can happen.

TD QC. Different TDs perform different levels of QC. In some cases, a TD has to contact the factory to obtain a replacement if the watch it receives has an obvious flaw. This is, of course, a benefit to you as the buyer. But in that case, the factory may need to assemble another watch. This adds time to the process and will result in a delay before you obtain your QC pics.

Website lists may not be accurate. Factories will make what they want and when they want. It depends on what is selling. Sometimes old watches are in stock, and sometimes they aren’t. It is not realistically possible for TDs to continuously update their websites with what watches are available. It would be a full-time job for the TD and the factory. That’s why it’s important to always ask a TD if the watch is available before ordering, even if the watch is listed on their website.

Coordinating multiple parts. There are multiple suppliers manufacturing multiple component parts. All of the component parts must be available in order to assemble the watch. A delay by any single factory delays the entire process. If there is a problem with an entire batch that renders the part unusable, the entire batch needs to be re-run and delay can be significant.

New releases and updates are nearly impossible to predict. There is no set schedule for when new updates or versions of a watch are released. Don’t rely on rumors or estimates on upcoming releases. They are usually inaccurate.

Popular watches are in high demand. If a watch is popular, the current stock may be sold out and the factories are waiting for parts to assemble more of them. If you put in an order and pay for the watch, you will be put on the backorder wait list. There is no way for the TD to know when they will get your watch. The factory may not even know. It depends on how many additional parts the factory receives, and their backorder list from all the dealers that are buying from them. The factory will fill orders to dealers based on their backorder list. Once your TD receives their allocation of those watches, your TD will then fill its own backorder list. The higher you are on the list, the sooner you will get your watch.

Availability of spare parts. A factory may have spare parts but may not want to sell them because they want to keep them to fill future orders. If the watch is no longer available, spare parts might not be available. In that case, because suppliers have minimum order quantities, those parts may never become available. As a result, your TD may or may not be able to source spare or replacement parts.

Every step takes time. When you ask a TD if a watch is available, they have to ask the factory. The factory has to check availability and respond. Then the TD has to respond back to you.

When you buy a watch from the TD, the TD then buys the watch from the factory. The factory may have to assemble the watch. Some factories work faster than others.

Once the watch is ready, the factory provides it to the TD. If the watch has an obvious problem, the TD may get a replacement, and the factory may have to assemble another one. Once the TD has watch that’s ready for you, the TD then takes pics to send to you for your QC.

As you can see, every step in the process takes time. Be patient.
 

dave47

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Apr 19, 2018
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EXCELLENT!! These articled should be REQUIRED READING for noobs -- as well as "old timers" who might have forgotten the intricate "dance" between TDs and the factories.

dave
 
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